Carl Edwards scored his 24th career NASCAR Sprint Cup series win Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Edwards didn’t have the fastest car, didn’t lead the most laps, but was able to stretch out his fuel to the end to score his first win at Joe Gibbs Racing, and his first at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Here’s how the longest race of the NASCAR season the Coca-Cola 600 played out Sunday.
Matt Kenseth led to the green from pole but Edwards came up from third and was side by side for the lead; Joey Logano was close behind. By lap 3 Kenseth was able to move ahead and take sole possession of the lead as Edwards and Logano fell in behind, Denny Hamlin was fourth Kyle Larson fifth. By lap 12 Kenseth’s lead was 1.2 seconds. Martin Truex Jr. had slipped into fifth with Kevin Harvick close behind; Larson had fallen to seventh. By lap 19 the lead was 2.8 seconds and Kenseth was continuing to pull away.
Kenseth had a lead of 3.5seconds on lap 26 when NASCAR put out a pre-announced competition caution. The leaders came in for stops. Kenseth was first off pit road, followed by Logano, Edwards, Keselowski, Hamlin and Harvick. Brad Keselowski was penalized for removing equipment and forced in for a stop and go penalty.
The green came out on lap 30. Logano was able to get the jump on Kenseth and took the lead, Hamlin was behind Kenseth in third; Edwards fell into fourth; Kurt Busch was fifth. Hamlin got by Kenseth for second on lap 35. Hamlin was inching his way forwards and on lap 41 was looking for the lead. On lap 43, Hamlin got by and took the lead. By lap 48 Kenseth was falling back; Edwards was third, Harvick fourth, Kurt Busch fifth, Truex sixth, Kenseth seventh. Harvick took over third on lap 55. He was looking for second soon after and got the spot on lap 60. A lap later Harvick was looking for the lead. On lap 63 in traffic the two fought for the top spot with Harvick coming out ahead by lap 65 and beginning to move away. Logano was third, Kurt Busch fourth and Truex fifth.
On lap 67 Logano and Hamlin were battling for second as Harvick stretched his lead out up front. By lap 70 Logano had reasserted himself in second as Harvick’s lead was 2.5 seconds.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. kicked off a round of green flag stops on lap 75. Earnhardt had been reporting a vibration and the crew did indeed find a loose wheel. By lap 77 many in the field were pitting; Hamlin, Kenseth, and Edwards came in on lap 78, Harvick followed. When the stops cycled by lap 81 through Harvick was back in the lead 1.6 seconds ahead of Logano, Truex was third, Hamlin fourth and Kurt Busch fifth. Truex had taken over second by lap 85 as Harvick’s lead was 2.4 seconds.
Jimmie Johnson spun exiting turn fourth on lap 89 bringing out the second caution. He was 13th at the time, and hit nothing. Johnson was able to point the car down pit road, and was able to continue not even losing a lap.
The leaders all came in for stops. Logano led off pit road followed by Hamlin and Austin Dillon, all three had taken only two tires. Harvick and Truex came out fourth and fifth with four tires. Keselowski having just pitted a few laps earlier stayed out and inherited the lead.
The green came out on lap 94. Logano was able to get the lead as Kurt Busch was able to rocket into second. A lap later with four fresh tires as opposed to two, Busch took the lead. Truex got by for second past Logano on lap 97. Earnhardt who had restarted 16th was inside the top 10 in ninth. By lap 104, Truex was just behind Busch looking for the lead. Earnhardt was up to fifth by lap 123. Third place Logano was 6.3 seconds behind the lead duo of Busch and Truex. Earnhardt was fourth by lap 127 and third a lap later.
Justin Allgaier brought out the third caution on lap 136 when he smacked the wall between turns three and four. The caution erased an almost seven second lead for Busch over third place Earnhardt. The leaders all came in for stops. Busch was first out, Truex was second Earnhardt third, Keselowski fourth, Kyle Busch was fifth; all took four tires.
The green came out on lap 141. Busch was able to power to the lead, Truex fell into second, Earnhardt third; Harvick went three wide and was able to fight his way to fourth. Two laps later Harvick was looking for third as Keselowski held station in fifth.
Busch’s lead remained steady at just over a second over Truex, Earnhardt ands Harvick as the halfway point of the race drew closer. By lap 184 as green flag stops loomed, Truex began to draw in Busch. Those green flag stops began on lap 186. Truex came in on lap 188, Kurt Busch and Harvick led the rest of the leaders in a lap later. Truex had the lead when the stops cycled through, 1.3 seconds over Busch, Harvick, Keselowski, and Earnhardt.
At the halfway point, Truex was leading by 2.6 seconds over Busch, Harvick was third, Earnhardt was fourth and Keselowski fifth. The biggest mover was Johnson who was 8th after earlier being as far back as 36th
At lap 225, Truex’s lead was 3.3 seconds. That lead was erased when caution four came out on lap 230 when Trevor Bayne hit the wall exiting turn 4.
The 17 lead lap cars all came in for stops. Truex led off pit road, Harvick was second, Busch third, Kyle Busch fourth and Earnhardt fifth; Johnson came out sixth. The green came out on lap 234; Harvick had a bad restart and fell back for a half a lap, as Truex went to the lead; Kurt Busch went to the lead a lap later as Harvick recovered and took over third, Earnhardt was fourth, Johnson fifth.
Truex was able to get a run and take the lead on lap 261 as Busch slipped entering the frontstretch; by lap 264 Truex had a lead of 1.1 seconds. Six laps later the lead was 3.5 seconds over Harvick who took over second on lap 270.
Caution five was brought out on lap 273 when Johnson in fifth, spun in nearly the same place exiting turn 4. Unfortunately unlike the last spin, Johnson’s Chevy went nose first hard into the inside pit wall. He was forced to the garage with heave front end damage. The leaders pitted; Truex was out first, Harvick second, Kurt Busch third, Hamlin fourth and Kyle Busch fifth.
The restart came on lap278. Truex leapt the lead, as Hamlin and Harvick contested second; Earnhardt made a brief appearance in third but by lap 281 Hamlin was second, Harvick third, Earnhardt fourth and Keselowski fifth. Ryan Blaney lost an engine on lap 281 and went into the wall entering turn 1 and caution six flew.
When the pits finally opened only Kurt Busch, Harvick, and Keselowski among the top runners pitted; Truex, Hamlin, Earnhardt and Kyle Busch stayed out. Harvick restarted 10th, Kurt Busch 11th, Keselowski 12th, Logano 13th when the green came back out on lap 291; Truex was able to get to the lead as Hamlin went to second, Kyle Busch quietly moved into third, Earnhardt was fourth, Greg Biffle fifth. Kyle Busch took over second on lap 295.
Johnson reentered the race from the garage on lap 300; he was scored 42nd, 27 laps down. By lap 303, Truex had a lead of nearly a second but Harvick with four fresh tires had moved to fourth and continuing to move forward. Jeff Gordon who had been outside the top 15 most of the race and was forced to re-pit earlier was in eighth.
Kenseth made a green flag stop from 11th on lap 318 with a loose wheel. Caution seven came out on lap 328 when Michael Annett spun on the backstretch. The caution came just as the eight drivers who did not pit under the previous stops led by Truex needed to pit. The leaders all pitted under the caution. Hamlin won the race off pit road followed by Truex, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Keselowski fifth; all took four tires.
The green came out at lap 332;Hamlin was able to hold onto the lead, but Truex was close behind and Kyle Busch and Harvick dueled for third, with Kurt Busch close behind. The front two were able to break away but on lap 336, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall exiting turn 4 after losing his brakes; he had slowed for David Ragan who had hit the wall. The incidents left debris on the track and NASCAR threw caution eight. Earnhardt, Edwards, Biffle and Gordon were the only cars among the leaders to pit, gambling that they would have enough fuel to make the distance while the rest of the field would be forced to pit.
The green came out on lap 341; Hamlin retook the lead with Harvick moving to second as Truex took over third,; Hamlin was reporting that he was feeling ill. On lap 343 Truex retook second from Harvick. Behind Keselowski went to third, Kurt Busch fourth, Paul Menard was fifth. Hamlin was reporting a possible loose wheel on lap 357 as Truex lurked close behind. On lap 362 Hamlin gave up the lead to pit with his possible loose wheel. He reentered the field a lap down in 17th. Up front Truex’s lead over Harvick was 1.1 seconds with 44 laps to go.
With 25 laps to go the question become if and when those eight drivers who needed fuel would pit. Logano came in first on lap 378. Truex came in on the same lap just as Logano was leaving; Harvick, both Busch brothers and Keselowski came ion lap 380. All those who pitted took fuel and four tires. On the track, Edwards led, Biffle was second, Earnhardt third, Aric Almirola fourth and Kenseth fifth.
Hamlin was seventh and moving forward but Truex was faster on fresher tires and was soon past Hamlin with 10 laps to go.
Biffle was slowly reeling in Edwards as the laps were winding down. With 6 to go Edwards lead was 1.4 seconds. With five to go Edwards began to pick up the pace and Biffle was fading as he was trying to conserve fuel. Earnhardt Jr. was third but seven seconds back, Truex was fifth with 3 laps to go but too far back. With 2 laps to go the lead began to move out even further and when the white flag flew the lead was early seven seconds as Biffle was running out fuel and in the end Edwards was able to score the win 4.7 seconds over Biffle.
Earnhardt Jr. was third, followed by Kenseth and Truex Jr. in fifth. Ryan Newman was sixth, Brad Keselowski seventh, Denny Hamlin who led 53 laps was eighth, Kevin Harvick ninth and Kurt Busch 10th. The full race results can be found here. The updated championship point standings can be found here. The next race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule is the FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway next Sunday with live coverage on Fox Sports 1 at 1:00 p.m. ET.